Valentine's Day and Ash Wednesday collide: When love meets Lent

Ash Wednesday and Valentine's Day fall on the same day this year, Wednesday, Feb. 14 – a day of indulgence meeting a day of abstaining. 

The last time this happened was in 2018, according to several outlets citing Live Wire. Last century, the two holidays fell on the same day in 1923, 1934 and 1945. For this century, it's happening in 2024, then again in 2029 and that will be it. 

2024 Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday is not a fixed date. Its timing is tied to Easter Sunday, and for most Christians, Easter will fall on March 31 this year.

Easter also moves annually, swinging between March 22 and April 25 based on a calendar calculation involving the moon.


An indigenous woman bearing a cross marked with ashes on her forehead attends a mass during the Catholic celebration of Ash Wednesday, at the Juan Bautista church in San Juan Sacatepequez, Guatemala, on February 22, 2023. - Ash Wednesday marks the fi

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops lays it out: "Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the Paschal full moon, which is the first full moon occurring either on or after the spring equinox (March 21). ... To find the date for Ash Wednesday, we go back six weeks which leads to the First Sunday of Lent and four days before that is Ash Wednesday."

What happens on Ash Wednesday?

Ash Wednesday is the day in the Christian church that kicks off the holy season of Lent, which culminates with Easter.

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It's an obligatory day of fasting and abstinence for Catholics, and the abstinence restrictions are continued on Fridays during Lent.

But not all Christians celebrate it, or at least not as strictly. Those that do typically attend mass or a church service where a priest or other minister draws a cross of ashes on their forehead. 

Ashes can be purchased, but some churches make their own by burning the palms used on the prior Palm Sunday.  

The Lenten season commemorates the 40 days Christ spent in the desert by fasting and practicing self-control. 

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Giving up a luxury or indulgent is common for Christians from Ash Wednesday through Easter.

The history of Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day isn’t just a modern tradition. It has deep roots, leading all the way back to ancient Rome and the early Christians. Further, as an observance, Valentine’s Day dates back to the High Middle Ages.

To begin with, the day is really called Saint Valentine’s Day. It was originally (and still is) a Roman Catholic feast day, commemorating the life of a certain Valentinus, who was martyred in Rome some time in the 3rd century A.D. There is no reliable information concerning Saint Valentinus, except that he was martyred somewhere along the Via Flaminia, north of the Imperial City. In fact, there may even have been three saints with the same name, as Valentine, Valentinus or Valentinian were popular Latin names.

Can Catholics celebrate Valentine's Day?

Ash Wednesday with its fasting and abstinence requirements is far more significant and should be prioritized, said Catholic Bishop Richard Henning of Providence, Rhode Island, in the diocese’s official newspaper. His predecessor shared a similar message in 2018.

Online, several people have offered suggestions on how to simultaneously celebrate the two days.

"We will do something on the 13th I'm sure. But the 14th will be a day of abstinence and fasting," one person wrote on a Reddit thread. 

"We're going out for dinner on the 12th," another Reddit user wrote. 

Brother Édgar Henríquez, a Chilean seminarian of the Legionaries of Christ, told the Catholic News Agency that couples should "offer a day of prayer for your partner, for your future together, and for everything you are building."

FOX News and The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.